Kendrick Lamar Credits Three ’90s Hip-Hop Albums with Influencing His Artistic Direction

“I don’t look at these albums like just music; it sounds like an actual film."

In an interview with Variety, Kendrick Lamar cites DMX’s It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, Tupac Shakur’s Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory and The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death as the three records that helped him understand how albums are more valuable than an hour’s worth of songs.

“I don’t look at these albums like just music; it sounds like an actual film,” Lamar tells Variety. “To me, you need a big, grand production when you listen to these songs. You don’t necessarily just hear the music — you see it. You hear the stories; you hear the interludes; you hear the hooks and how different things intertwine. I always carry some type of conceptual idea inside my music, whether it’s a big concept or it’s so subtle you can’t even tell until you get to 20 listens.”

Lamar goes on to explain that the album process requires a level of care he wants the listener to feel as they experience the music. Crafting an album, in Kendrick Lamar’s world, is the best way to communicate your authenticity.

As it pertains to his own full-length bodies of work, Kendrick has proven that actions speak louder than words. good kid, m.A.A.d city is nothing short of a feature film and DAMN., for all of its dichotomies, plays as a documentary of Lamar’s psyche shot with impossible angles. Despite being tight-lipped about his personal life in most interviews, Lamar’s creative direction gives us all of the answers and more.

Luckily, Lamar is not the only artist keeping albums alive. The Big K.R.I.T.s, IDKs, and Rapsodys of the world are still out there, toiling over their concepts and their sequencing. Still, it’s nice to see chart-topping artists who are dedicated to delivering albums as cinematic experiences.

Hopefully, Lamar’s sensibilities rub off on hip-hop’s next wave of newcomers.